A Quiet Place, 2018.
Directed by John Krasinski.
Starring John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, and Cade Woodward.
A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.
The best way to describe A Quiet Place, the new film by beloved TV-actor-turned-director John Krasinski is that it feels like you’re sitting in front of a timebomb for 95 minutes. The film’s greatest accomplishment is how successful it is at engaging audiences by giving meaning to every single detail. Krasinski regularly sets up small details that you know will absolutely pay off horrifically – by showing you a timer, a shotgun, or an exposed nail in the floor, the film makes you anticipate the auditory horror that is to come. To Krasinski’s (and co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) credit, he doesn’t just place a Chekhov’s gun, but make the everyday items a vital part of the visual storytelling. A Quiet Place is most effective when making everyday life a living nightmare.
The story is quite simple, a family trying to survive an apocalypse in which strange and terrifying creatures kill you when you make a sound. Krasinski plays the dad (none of the characters are named in the movie, though the script has names for them), his real-life wife Emily Blunt plays the mom, and Noah Jupe (Suburbicon), Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck), and Cade Woodward play their three children. The family communicates using only American Sign Language, and the film is quick to establish the lengths to which they go to avoid even the slightest sound – from going on tiptoes everywhere to scraping the wooden floor. To make matters worse, the eldest daughter is deaf, and Simmonds (who is deaf in real-life) gives an extraordinary performance.
While this is a horror film, one that is designed to keep you at the edge of your seat and largely succeeds at that – this is also a film about family. From the first scene you are invested in the characters and their survival. It comes as no surprise that Krasinski and Blunt have great chemistry together, but it’s the relationship between them and the children that sells the family dynamic and the themes about empowering vs overprotecting and grief.
It is impressive to see Krasinski turn what could be a gimmick film and gives a masterclass in building suspense. The film’s language perfectly captures the terror of being afraid of something like a baby’s cry, with or without the monsters. The visual storytelling is subtle, and the lack of dialogue makes for some brilliant sound design. It is impossible to compliment this movie without acknowledging the sound designers. Despite there being very few words spoken, the auditory cues tell you everything you need to know about the world and the story of the film, and it created an atmosphere seldom seen in horror – one where the leaves and the wind, the cracks on the floor and the breathing of the characters have an actual meaning and gravitas to them.
Unfortunately, A Quiet Place is not without flaws, as Krasinski relies too heavily on jump scares and Marco Beltrami’s score to create horror instead of letting the story and the creatures speak for themselves. This film feels like a Cormac McCarthy movie, while also looking like the best Spielberg/George A. Romero mix you can imagine. The creature design by ILM is one of the best in years, and the monsters of the film easily belong in the great pantheon of horror creatures – like the xenomorph and the velociraptors, these creatures stalk the protagonists even when they are completely unseen and unheard.
John Krasinski has crafted a horror film for the decades, one that will keep you at the edge of your seat by weaponizing sound and may even bring out a tear by the end. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him in the future.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Rafael Motamayor is a journalist and movie geek based in Norway. You can follow him on Twitter.